Remembering Lorna

I first met Lorna Hutcheson twenty years ago. We became casual acquaintances while both working at Trent Radio; when Lorna and my friend Al got together a few months later we entered that weird “the girlfriend of my friend” asymmetry, a combination of a free pass to friendship combined with the eggshells of each knowing that we might eventually end up on either sides of a break-up.

When Lorna moved to the west coast a few months later, and Al decided to follow, I agreed to come along for the ride — hitchhiking as far as Thunder Bay and then the bus the rest of the way — and then suddenly found myself in the middle of Lorna and Al grappling to figure out whether they could carve out a longer-term thing.

Lorna’s move west was precipitated, in part, by a desire to explore alternatives to the social work career that she’d developed in Ontario. Empathetic by nature, and constitutionally unable to pay only partial attention, she was struggling, I think, with finding a way of being helpful to others without losing herself completely.

While Lorna worked at finding a new path, she and Al persevered and I was their house-guest several times on visits west over the next few years.

While I flitted about on the sidelines of vegetarianism, progressive politics and what we used to call “social change,” Lorna and Al were all-in. Oddly my strongest memory of this was that their politics required making potato pancakes out of sweet potatoes rather than regular ones. And there were sprouts; lots of sprouts. I reacted by sneaking out after-dark to the Mac’s Milk on the corner to purchase contraband Reese Peanut Butter Cups.

After a while Lorna and Al relocated to Vancouver Island and while they remained intertwined, they eventually moved apart. I heard from Al from time to time, and other friends of mine crossed paths with Lorna and reported back, but we gradually lost touch with each other.

Then one day, several years later, out of the blue, Lorna called me. She’d been to Mexico, had fallen ill, had made it back to her mother’s in western Ontario to recuperate, and was looking for a place to crash for a while and plan her next moves.

I’d just moved into an overly large apartment in downtown Peterborough and so I invited Lorna to come and live in the back room.

It was strange having Lorna suddenly back in my life: we’d known each other for what, young as we were, amounted to a very long time, but we’d never really gotten to properly know each other as friends outside of our connections to others.

Spending time with Lorna was intense, and sometimes a little overwhelming. We were both on the precipice of large life course-corrections, and over the four three weeks we spent a lot of time talking about the big issues of life (to be honest, I’m sure that I did most of the talking and Lorna most of the listening; our natural inclinations tending that way).

While we never quite managed to completely overcome the “friend of a friend” geometry that was the bedrock of our relationship, in that month in the summer of 1990 we certainly got to know each other a lot better, and I came to appreciate a lot of Lorna’s approaches to life.

My closest companion that summer was my dog Penny, an irascible lab-spaniel cross with seemingly endless energy. When I was due to visit friends in Montreal for a week and needed someone to look after Penny, Lorna stepped in, drove up with me, and continued on with Penny down into New Hampshire (to rendezvous, I only realized much later, with her new friend Jay).

Lorna and Penny got on like gangbusters on that trip and so when, a few weeks later, I had an opportunity to move to Texas and needed a temporary home for Penny while I was gone, Lorna generously stepped in. And when Lorna got her own opportunity to move — back to Vancouver Island — she gamely took Penny with her and we made tentative plans to rendezvous a few months down the road to transfer parentage back.

As things worked out, I ran out of money, didn’t make it west, and eventually it became obvious that Penny’s new home was with Lorna. While Lorna and I weren’t in sync philosophically on everything, I had no hesitation in this regard, as it was obvious that she and Penny were meant for each other (and what better life could there be for a dog than having free reign to bound through the forests of Vancouver Island).

Every now and again I’d hear reports about Penny’s new life from traveling friends, and Al, still a friend and also living on Vancouver Island, sent letters with updates. I learned about Lorna’s new love Jay, and knew something of their life together, but for the most part Lorna and I lost touch with each other for several years after that.

I met Catherine, we moved to Prince Edward Island. And then one day came another surprise call from Lorna: she and Jay were living in Colorado, had two children, and were thinking about relocating to PEI.

Although I knew something of Lorna’s Island connections — I’d been working with her Uncle Merrill at Elections PEI for several years by this time — I didn’t know she’d spent summers here as a child, and that it was, in many ways, her second home.

Lorna was calling to look for advice on making the move. I helped out in whatever small way I could, and then, as was our habit, we fell out of touch again.

The next time I heard from Lorna she and Jay and their kids were set up in Little Sands making a go at running a camp-cabin operation. We visited them — and Penny, now almost 10 years old and a sort of “dog emeritus,” with the spirit to be energetic but not always the flesh — and got to meet Armando and Yolando and Jay for the first time and learn something of their path since I’d last seen Lorna many years earlier.

While we did a little bit of web work for Lorna and Jay, and ran into them from time to time around town, our lives didn’t overlap nearly as much as I think we each might have imagined them to have.

Last week came another call out of the blue, although this time not from Lorna but from her Uncle Merrill: Lorna suddenly and unexpectedly died on Friday morning.

Yesterday at the wake I got to meet Lorna’s parents and brother and sister for the first time and see Armando and Yolanda almost all grown up. And waiting in the long line I came to realize that in Lorna’s time back here on the Island she’d touched the lives of many, many others.

I’m happy to have known Lorna. My thoughts and prayers go out to Jay, Armando and Yolanda whose time with Lorna was so suddenly cut short.

Comments

Karen's picture
Karen on April 25, 2007 - 11:34

Thanks for your story, Peter. It’s through these memories that we can keep Lorna alive. The world needs more Lornas. I’m also shaken by her passing. Best, Karen

Mary Lou's picture
Mary Lou on April 25, 2007 - 17:53

Peter, As a result of Googling Lorna’s name, I found that Trent Alumni had considered her a “lost alumnus”. Maybe you could send them your tribute? http://www.trentu.ca/alumni/lo…

Lobie's picture
Lobie on April 25, 2007 - 18:55

I came across these memories of Lorna while hunting for her on-line obituary. I missed the visitation at the funeral home, but made it back from Newfoundland in time for yesterday’s memorial ceremony in Bunbury. In spite of the emotionally harrowing nature of sudden loss, it’s clear that Lorna’s energy and inspiration live on and that she touched the lives of many with her clear and perceptive humanity. I was happy to learn something about her pre-PEI peregrinations and her serendipitous dog acquisition. Thanks for taking the time to tell the tale. Lobie

Oonagh's picture
Oonagh on April 25, 2007 - 22:51

Peter,

I was trying to find out how to reach you after hearing this shocking news across the continent on the coast of BC. Your tribute is helping me move from shock to sadness to celebration. People can touch your life for such a short time but still leave deep marks. I’ll always remember those times on Cortez Island with Lorna, Jay and Penny with great fondness.

I am pretty sure that you were the one that connected me to Lorna. My life would have been less full without that connection. So thanks. Oonagh

al reford's picture
al reford on April 26, 2007 - 00:45

ALOHA Peter.

thanks for the post about Lorna. Just reading it brought back so many memories especially about our travels together out west and your connection with lorna over the past 20 years as our lives evolved.

LORNA, THANK YOU. THANK YOU. YOU HAVE GIVEN SO MUCH TO ME. YOU HAVE BEEN AND ALWAYS WILL BE IN MY HEART AND SOUL. I THANK YOU FOR BEING IN ALL OUR LIVES AND WE WILL MISS YOU BEYOND BELIEF

Lorna, i am so sad that you are gone. THANK YOU FOR ALL THAT YOU SHARE WITH ALL OF US IN YOUR LIFE. WE ARE BETTER PEOPLE FOR IT AND YOU WILL CONTINUE TO INSPIRE US EVERY DAY

JAY. LORNA LOVE YOU WITH ALL OF HER HEART. SHE OFTEN SHARE WITH ME HOW MUCH SHE WAS INSPIRED BY YOU. THIS SUMMER SHE AGAIN AFFIRMED HOW MUCH SHE LOVED YOU. THANK YOU FOR BEING IN HER LIFE AND MAY HER SPIRIT CONTINUE TO GUIDE YOU AS YOU GO THROUGH LIFE. PLEASE STAY IN TOUCH WITH ME. YOU ARE A GREAT PERSON AND I VALUE YOUR FRIENDSHIP DEEPLY.

ARMANDO AND YOLANDA. YOUR MOM LOVED YOU SO MUCH SHE WAS ALWAYS TELLING ME ABOUT YOUR ADVENTURES AND SHARING ALL THE LITTLE THINGS THAT HAPPEN IN YOUR LIVES. tHROUGH THIS SHARING I GOT TO KNOW YOU.
SHE TOLD ME YOU WERE ALL COMING TO THE WEST COAST THIS SUMMER JUST A LITTLE WHILE AGO. I WAS EXCITED TO BE MEETING YOU. I STILL LOOK FORWARD TO MEETING YOU BOTH IN PERSON

I KNOW YOU ARE BOTH SAD. PLEASE REMEMBER HOW MUCH YOUR MOM LOVED YOU. SHE WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU IN SPIRIT AND IN YOUR HEARTS. I AM CRYING RIGHT NOW. I AM SAD THAT YOUR MOM HAS PASSED AWAY.

SHE WAS SO PROUD OF BOTH OF YOU YOLANDA AND ARMANDO. I TRUST AS YOU MISS HER EACH DAY YOU WILL REMEMBER ALL THE GREAT TIMES AND ADVENTURES YOU HAD WITH HER.

I was at the service in spirit and had some buddhist monks to offer a prayer for her as well.

Below are some of my memories and thoughts on Lorna. a very beautiful person indeed.

PART 1(TO jUNE 1989)

I am sad and in disbelief. My heart and prayers are with you all who loved Lorna

I remember so much of the Kindness and sharing sprit of Lorna. I remember the Day I met her at Trent Radio in January 1987.I was terribly depressed and despondent. Peter i am sure remember that time. My radio work at Trent Radio with him was my main joy at that time.

At the time I had dropped out of university and was searching for meaning in my life.

Lorna befriended me and I found out that she worked with people then labelled as”metally retarded’. We had many interesting conversation over the next three months and Lorna supplied me with with mounds of reading material on the subject of community living. As a person with cerbal palsy(extremely mild) and having a cousin who was warehoused..i was very intersted in this. Peter and i were involved with Perojects for Change and exploring Anarchism at this time. Loprna’s influence led me to take a sign languagre course from our fellow anarchist REichard. This led to me being offered a job in march 1987 working in the field..Now 20 years later. i am still doing this work..still striving to support freedom and full citizenship rights for an oppressed minority..I THANK YOU LORNA

LORNA ALSO guided me taught me active listening skills and introduced me to personal self help and victor frankl’s meaning of life, LORNA inspired me to change my diet to vegetarian. Lorna later was amazed wheni turned vegan 6 months later…(Hence the radical diet experiences that Peter mentioned) and then macrobiotic. Lorna honoured my choices while following her own path.

Lorna’s keen insights and community building spirit, her love of humanity has BEEN A DEFINING FORCE IN MY LIFE FROM THE LIVELIHOOD THAT I HAVE CHOSEN, TO THE GENEROUSITY OF BUILDING A BETTER KINDER, MORE HUMAN SOCIEY FOR US ALL.

She inspired me to explore what it meant to be male in western socity and to evolve so that i could respect the rights of women more and shed patriachical attitudes and ways.
Her friends in the transition homes where she work helped in this process.

She was a catalyst for change in my life and yours. She inspired me to move to the West Coast, TO SEEK OUT MY POTENTIAL AS A HUMAN BEING TO BECOME ALL THAT WAS POSSIBLE FOR ME TO BECOME.LORNA HAD THE MOTIVATION GIFT

Lorna and I started a relationship in Peterborough Ontario where I grew up..Then in March 1987 we got together as a couple..i enjoyed this experience enormously. Yet i was awed by Lorna’s knowledge and abilities. This was why she was so important in my life as an positive influence to change.. In June 1987 Lorna went on a trip to the West Coast… it was just a trip to start then She decided to stay So in late August i went on Vacation to BC with Peter.. and i loved the West Coast and decided to stay and i wanted to continue my relationship with Lorna…Peter went back to Ontario..

Lorna found me a farm sitting job in the mountains… and i learned alot from September 1987- February 1988… i would see lorna in Vancouver every few weeks.. i was lonely in the mountains being a social nut(still am)… and eventually called it quits in Febuary 1988… Lorna helped me and took me in on short notice..Also on Short notice we decided to get a co-op apartment together.

In March 1988 Peter came out to visit us there again…We lived there until July 1988.. It was a great experience even though i was unemployed at the time…

In June 1988..we went up to Quadra Island and we decided to move there.
It was a great move for us both… At first we rented a crummy trailer at a petro canada station.. yuck..that last one day and we found a lovely house owned by a crazy eccentric english guy BOB…
well this began our great Quadra adventure… we met Kathleen, Mark and Michelle..
it was a great time and Lorna quickly found a great job.
Me it took me longer but i enjoyed the rural island life…i finally got a job at April Point for a few weeks.. then the winter came…
it was cold but we were having a great time IT SEEMED THOUGH..
uNDER NEATH I WAS STILL A TROUBLED LAD… I HAD EXTREMELY LOW SELF ESTEEM and i felt dependent on Lorna and was afraid i could not live without her… In February 1989..i slept with someone else while Lorna was away.
It hurt her so deeply and though we stay together until May 22,1989 it was a sad thing that i could not at the time take space in a postibve honouring lorna fashion

i tell you about this as it shows Lorna’s character that she stayed to work things out despite my betrayal.

I was sad when we split up in May but we remained friends. Though Lorna went off to explore herself and she met Jay.. it was good for her and in our letters she was so happy to find someone. i was very happy for her and was healing myself discovering that i could exist on my own and not feel like i was Lorna’s shadow.

Our friendship continued though mostly through letters and the odd phone call..

Part two in a few days…

IN LOVE AND GRATITUDE

aLOHA aL :)

al reford's picture
al reford on April 26, 2007 - 23:32

PART TWO

Well we got to almost 1989 in part one. I wanted to mention a few more things from that time period.
Lorna was a fantastic organizer and motivator of people using the latest therapies to help people live better lives. In her work in the transition house for the Ministry rescuing abused women and at Campbell River Womens Centre, She put in amazing amounts of hours to support each place she worked and the people she met.
Her greatest sadness which she expressed to me on many occasions was that women were just of capable of playing patriarchical politics as were men. Lorna found it hard to work in such an environment, so she kept searching for a better way an evolutionary path for all humanity to follow.

Lorna was an accomplished poet and she wrote many poems. She was also an artist and could create the most amazing crafts.

So onto part two.. aL MEETS jAY..

Well as I said Lorna and I kept in contact..When she had her Hepitatis scare after a trip to Mexico, she contacted me for help getting some products only available on the west coast. Then months later She and Jay move to Quadra…I did not know what to expect when I met Jay..what I found was he was a warm soft spoken gentle person. I liked him immediately and wasglad that Lorna had met someone who was as great as Jay was.

I actually did not see Lorna and Jay again until 1995, though we exchanged a few letters by that time I was with Julia and my step daughter Geneva.. and Lorna and Jay were on Cortes Island. We went up to visit them and Julia immediately loved Jay and Lorna and Geneva loved the dogs especially Penny..
… Lorna had decided to attend Naropa University in Boulder , Colorado…
Lorna and Jay wanted to sell their house on Cortes and buy land on Quadra as well as buy a house in Colorado…
I offered to be a land partner.. Our intention was to develop the land.
We never did develop the land but it brought me close again to Lorna and Jay and I am grateful for the opportunity. As land partners Jay and lorna were great.. We were able to communicate when we needed to and after 5 years when it became apparent that Jay and lorna were going to move back to PEI..We decided to sell.. unfortunately the land market on Quadra was in a lull and we sold for the same price as we had bought it or a little less I think.. The whole process though was good for me as I saw that it was possible to co-operate in creating community despite so many people telling me that joint ownership is a nightmare. Well not with Lorna ,Jay and I. It was the exact opposite.

While in Colorado Lorna told me how much the masters degree program at Naropa had given her new insight and she really liked the process. She was absolutely thrilled when her and Jay adopted Armando and Yolanda.

She wrote often and emailed me to describe them and eventually I got to talk briefly with them both..

Lorna really loved kids always Armando and Yolanda brought her fulfillment and great Joy.

My long term friend Arlaine decided to take a course at this institute in Charlottetown. I hooked her up with Lorna and Jay.. Arlaine went there twice generously hauling some heavy Thai presents from me to the Knowles/Hutcheson family. I was glad that this meeting of my friends ocurred.

Lorna and I last talked this summer. She was expressing her love of her family and Jay.I was sharing my relationship with my partner Cori(we went on to go to Thailand together and go to a yoga retreat center for 5 months)Lorna was so happy for me and said many kind words to me. She also again said how much she appreciated our friendship.

Lorna, I will always treasure our friendship and connection. Thank you for supporting me over the years and for sharing the joys of life with your family and me and all your friends.

You were an amazing light of joy and enlightment.
I am crying now Lorna..I feel sad and joy.. mixed. I can be in touch with these emotions and felings in large part thanks to your tutoring and support..

Lorna thank you for coming and sharing this planet with us all. We will always remember you.

I look foward to reading other people experiences of you. I really enjoyed Peter’s.

love and Aloha Al

al's picture
al on May 16, 2007 - 16:13

Just a note that on May 3/07 I manage to arrange a prayer to be said in Lorna’s honour by some Buddhist monks. Love ya Lorna Aloha Al

Sharon Dunford nee Van A's's picture
Sharon Dunford ... on September 14, 2007 - 02:03

Being somewhat technologically challenged, it didn’t occur to me until today to “Google” Lorna Hutcheson, after I read the terribly sad news in the Trent Alumni Magazine. I spent countless hours trying to find any information about either her or Peter Rukavina ‘85 in the Online Trent Alumni Directory, but absolutely no luck, no matter WHAT I tried. I then emailed the magazine, figuring that if they had a contribution from someone, then they would also have his contact info. Nope. Then I tried Canada411.ca: again, no luck. It wasn’t until I thought to Google that I came across this site. What I am really trying to find is any sort of address, real or email, for her family. Can anyone out there help me, even if only to give me her married name?!

I first met Lorna at Otonabee College when I was in my second year and she was in her first, 1979. I was struck IMMEDIATELY by her kind and gentle nature and way of speaking. She was also one of those world-wide rarities: a born listener. I have never met a sweeter soul, and I have been blessed by knowing her. In 1980 I had made plans to drive out west to Banff with two other friends, but at the last minute, literally, and with no warning, they backed out! Leaving me with a job waiting, but no where nearly enough money to get there. I began panicking, and thankfully I was doing it loudly enough for Lorna to hear. She put me out of my misery right away by telling me that she also was planning to work in Banff that summer, and that she would be more than happy to drive with me. I began to breathe for the first time in 2 days! We stopped overnight in Woodstock, ON where her mother was living, and I actually tasted home-made mayonnaise for the first time — what an odd thing to remember! I also remember how careful she was about what she ate, and that she had to snack often. We both loved the ferry ride from Tobermoray, even though we just missed the last one and had to sleep overnight in my little Astre Station Wagon! I somehow talked another friend from Kingston, ON to come with us, and we fixed the wagon up so that the backseat lay flat and became a proper bed, complete with pillows, sleeping bags, blankets and a sleep mask for napping during the day. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia playing tricks with my mind, but I remember being quite comfortable, and none of us had any trouble sleeping! One drove, one rode shotgun and one slept — a perfect solution, and we actually arrived a day earlier than planned! We wound up being roommates for awhile at the job site, but even with all of the forced closeness, we never ran out of things to talk about or EVER had a single cross word or thought — and I’m far from being an easy person to have around! I had lived for a time in Nova Scotia, so we always had plenty to talk about, since her dad lived in P.E.I. and she spent as much time there as possible. We even drove, yes, in my little Astre Wagon, down East on University holidays, like March break, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the like, and I’d drop her off at the ferry in New Brunswick, and trundle my way home to Amherst, Nova Scotia. Later, when I had moved out of residence and into a big house with 4 other seriously insalubrious female roomies, she and I drove down East with my beloved cat, Felix. Poor Lorna was SO allergic and I felt terribly guilty for forcing her to be in such a confined space with him, but she simply wouldn’t hear of leaving him behind, and so we managed. Felix adored her, which of course made it worse!

I, too, remained in Peterborough after Trent for a long time: actually, after some gypsying around, Peterborough is now my permanent home. At first we used to bump into each other occasionally, get together for lunch or a drink, but sadly, as is so often the case with High School or University friends, your paths diverge and you just coast along and away from each other. I had hoped that Lorna and I would be life-long friends, but I guess that was just was not meant to be, but I will always remember her as the kindest, gentlest, sweetest most giving human being I have ever met. She literally never had a bad word to say about anyone, and that is such a rare quality in a person.

If there is anyone, anyone out there who knows how I could contact her family in P.E.I., PLEASE email me at sharondunford@cogeco.ca. I will be forever in your debt, because I would like her children to know just how she saved my hide one summer, and all the rest of how remarkable a woman she was. Thank-you also to Peter Rukavina for bring this sad, sad event to my attention, via Trent Alumni Magazine. Oh yes, you should let them know where you are, so that you can be found in their Online Directory — they were no help whatsoever!

Sharon Dunford nee Van A's's picture
Sharon Dunford ... on October 6, 2007 - 02:28

No one has sent me an address or an email for Lorna’s family, but luckily I married a computer guy and he found out everything I needed. I have been struggling to write a letter of condolence to her family: what do you say to people you’ve never met about someone you haven’t seen in 25 years? I still remember her so well and so lovingly though, I really do feel the need to tell them that there are other people in this big, bad world who knew and appreciated their wife and mother. I hope I don’t rake up embers that are just beginning to die down: having lost both parents and a child, I know what grief can do to you.

Thanks again, Peter. I’ve never met you, but your article in the Trent Alumnus Magazine told me something I needed to know. Not something I wanted, but something I needed. And thank-you on behalf of all of her other old friends who won’t take the time to hunt you down, but are grateful all the same: Lorna was well-loved by everyone I knew at Otonabee, and her loss diminishes us all.

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